Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging
Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging

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Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging

5 Working with other people with learning disabilities

From the turn of the 21st century, opportunities have opened up for people with learning disabilities to undertake paid work where they are seen as ‘experts’. Sometimes these opportunities come about through people’s involvement in self-advocacy groups. These are organisations run for – and by – people with learning disabilities. You’ll read more about them in Session 8.

In the next activity, you will watch Shaun Picken talk about his experience of becoming a consultant through self-advocacy organisation My Life My Choice.

Activity 6 Self-advocacy as a route to employment

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Watch this video of Shaun talking about his experience of work at My Life My Choice. As you watch note down:

  1. how Shaun’s life has changed since he became a consultant with My Life My Choice
  2. what type of work Shaun is involved in.
Download this video clip.Video player: Video 5
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Transcript: Video 5

I got told that I only had 10% chance of working. So I wasn't really given much hope until, luckily enough, I came to My Life My Choice. How it happened was I was at a bus training group.
I was helping them out. I wasn't really doing like, the work. I was just helping out. So, they were like, right, so you could do the travel training. And I was like, cool. I can be a travel trainer.
So that's how it started. And then I just went from there, all way up. And now I'm a consultant and kicking behind.
So My Life My Choice is a self advocacy charity who is to do with learning disabilities and we work with people with learning disabilities. So what it means to me is pretty much, without My Life My Choice, I would still be on the computer 24/7, doing nothing.
So the jobs I do with My Life My Choice are as a consultant because I'm now employed by My Choice, so I'm a staff member. I do gig buddying, which is basically taking someone out who is not going out socially. And we take them out socially to gigs, or museums, or theatre, or things like that.
We also do travel buddying, which is helping the person travel independently whether that's by train, or by bus, or walking, even. And we also do care and treatment reviews, which is going into assessment treatment units or locked-up units and helping the person try and get out back into the community. Most of the people I've actually travel trained, actually, I work with. So it's like they always come up to me and their confidence have completely shot through the roof.
We've just got our new gig buddy colleague in. So she will be running the reigns. And hopefully soon enough, we'll be out, and socialising, and causing mayhem.
End transcript: Video 5
Video 5
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    • It has given Shaun hope of a working life
    • Shaun has developed more self-esteem
    • Shaun isn’t sitting in front of a computer ‘24/7’ anymore.

    • Shaun is a travel buddy for other people with learning disabilities
    • Shaun is a gig buddy, helping other people with learning disabilities to develop a social life
    • Shaun takes part in Care and Treatment Reviews
    • Shaun is now a paid consultant for My Life My Choice.

Much of the focus in this session has been on paid work, however Shaun’s experience shows that voluntary work (or ‘helping out’) can sometimes be an effective route into paid employment.

While some people say that they are forced into voluntary work because they have been unable to secure paid employment, Shaun’s experience highlights that learning disability organisations can help people make that step from voluntary work to paid employment and at the same time help to develop their skills, confidence and social networks.


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